Video: Hostages Held at Gunpoint at Gas Station Overwhelm Man Who Shot Customer

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
August 1, 2019US News
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Video: Hostages Held at Gunpoint at Gas Station Overwhelm Man Who Shot Customer
Still images from surveillance footage released by authorities. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

Surveillance video released this week shows hostages held at an Arizona gas station overwhelming a man who barged in, killed a customer, and held others for approximately eight hours.

The video was released after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office ruled the officer-involved non-fatal shooting of the suspect was in line with department policies.

Joel McClain Carson, 53, walked into a Circle K gas station in Phoenix on May 9, 2018, and approached a customer waiting in line before shooting that customer in the head.

He then spoke to others in the store.

“He said, ‘This is not a game. It’s not a joke. I don’t want any money, any beer… I came prepared to die,'” one of the hostages later told the police, reported AZ Family.

On orders from Carson, a store employee locked the front door and it was barricaded with a case of donuts. Everyone inside went to the back of the store.

“As soon as we got in there, all we heard was just a bang. And then I saw one guy just collapse,” Ramon Vasquez, who works nearby, told The Republic. “In my mind, I thought it was just some kid playing around, popping a bag of Cheetos or something.”

He said Carson was waving his gun around and saying people should get “ready to die.”

NTD Photo
A police car in a file photo. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images)

At a certain point, the hostages ganged up to take on the man with the gun.

“I turned the gun to his stomach, and I tried to pull the trigger,” said one man who fought back, according to AZ Family. “It was my only instinct to get myself out of the situation.”

Vasquez told the Republic that his boss and five others tackled the man.

According to investigators, Carson had tried shooting other customers and employees but investigators said the .22-caliber handgun he was brandishing wouldn’t fire.

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Joel McClain Carson in a booking photograph. (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office)

“The bullets did not go off due to the cylinder being out of alignment,” detectives later wrote, according to ABC 15.

As Carson tried to fire, hostages rushed at him and disarmed him.

After taking the gun, most of the hostages fled.

Carson remained in the station for about an hour before a SWAT team entered and took him into custody.

Carson was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, possession of a weapon by a prohibited person, and aggravated assault.

Victim Identified

The man who Carson was said to have shot was later identified as Efran Hernandez, 24.

‘He was murdered,” one friend who did not want to be identified told Fox 10. “I don’t have words to say the pain that I feel for him.”

“His personality. I loved him a lot. He was always there for you, anything you needed,” the man added. “He always treated people well, even if he didn’t know them. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone.”

Hector Villarreal said he was close to Hernandez.

“It’s complicated,” Villareal, who was crying, said. “We’re here, and it brings emotion.”

Hernandez’s wife told AZ Family: “My girls will never have their father back,” referring to their two young daughters.

“We were young when I got pregnant and he was always there and responsible,” she added.

“He worked a full-time job while going to high school and exhausted himself and he never complained.”

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